|04.22.11 at 9:27 am ET|
Times continue to get tough for Carl Crawford.
The Red Sox did beat the Angels, 4-2, Thursday night, and Crawford did come away with two walks and a stolen base. But that didn’t lift the cloud that continues to hover over the outfielder, who went without a hit for the 10th time in his 17 games played, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
Another reminder regarding Crawford’s struggles came when he put down a sacrifice bunt to get to Jason Varitek with one out and runners on first and second in a scoreless game in the sixth.
The bunt actually turned into a well-executed play for the Red Sox, with Jacoby Ellsbury ultimately driving in the game’s first run, but it also offered a dose of reality considering Varitek is hitting .043 and you’re sacrificing with the player who had been perceived as one of the team’s best run-producers at the start of the season, residing in the lineup’s No. 3 spot.
Another picture that told the story of the pressures surrounding Crawford was that of the money thrown on the field when the left fielder stepped into the on-deck circle. (Hat tip to Larry Brown Sports.) You might remember the Angels were the ones who finished second in the Crawford sweepstakes this past offseason, a notion that evidently even the laid-back Southern Californians aren’t about to forget.
Los Angeles outfielder Torii Hunter, for one, holds no hard feelings.
“Everybody had him coming here,” Hunter told the Boston Herald. “I had him coming here … He made his choice. But I’m his homeboy first.”
Hunter later added, ‘That was his business. His business plan didn’t work out for me. He made his decision and I respect that. I was a free agent once. I’m a fellow baseball player. I know what it’s like. I’m not upset at all. I love him.
‘I was in Fort Myers with Boston for years. I respect that organization like crazy. Those guys coming up with $142 (million), they really wanted him. I tip my cap.’
Before the game, Crawford told CBSSports.com that, in his mind, one solution to his problem is not listening to the wave of advice that has come his way since the struggles began.
“Right now the best advice is no advice,” Crawford said. “At this point, everybody seems to be a hitting coach. At this point, I’m just shutting everybody out.”
Of 196 qualifying players, Crawford has the lowest OPS (.371), just above the Yankees‘ Brett Gardner (.388), who did beat out Crawford for lowest batting average (.128 to .143). The Dodgers’ James Loney possesses the worst on-base percentage (.190), with Gardner and the Red Sox’ outfielder trailing just behind at .196 and .200, respectively.
|04.22.11 at 1:58 am ET|
Finally, they broke through.
The Red Sox had spent most of the game frittering away opportunities, leaving Josh Beckett with no margin for error — and a no-decision — on a night when his flirtations with a no-hitter could not earn him a victory. But after the Sox left 13 runners on base through the first 10 innings, with the game deadlocked at 2-2, they finally got a much-needed breakthrough when Adrian Gonzalez delivered a run-scoring double to right to plate the go-ahead run against the Angels in the top of the 11th.
Gonzalez’ biggest hit with his new club set the stage for a 4-2 victory against an Angels team playing as well as any team in the game. The Sox now appear to be finding their way, with five wins in their last six contests, including W’s in two of their first three road games on the West Coast.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–The final note of Josh Beckett‘s outing was disappointment. Though he carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, he suddenly was positioned for a no-decision when his second hit of the night traveled about 420 feet, as Torii Hunter tied the game, 2-2, with a two-run homer against a fastball down the middle. And yet the fact that the standard for judging Beckett’s outings is now near perfection speaks volumes to how far he’s come.
One dominant start was eye-opening. Two represented promise. Three now qualifies as a pattern. In his last three outings, Beckett has allowed three runs on eight hits over 23 innings while striking out 24 and walking five. He is 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in that run. He has been nothing short of a force and, even though his fastball velocity has been settling around 93 mph (rather than the 94-96 mph that he featured a couple years ago), he has been simply overpowering.
It will, however, be interesting to monitor whether Beckett experiences any fatigue in subsequent outings. He logged 125 pitches, the most he’s thrown as a member of the Sox and the most by any Sox pitcher since Jon Lester logged 130 pitches in his 2008 no-hitter.
—Dustin Pedroia set a new season-high by reaching base five times, going 3-for-4 with three singles and two walks. He now has a .450 OBP this year. His performance was all the more impressive given that he gave the team a bit of a scare in the early innings, when he jammed his left foot (the one that he broke last year) hard into the second-base bag in the third inning.
—Carl Crawford ended a two-week stretch without a walk. In fact, he walked twice, though he went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts to drop his average to .143.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–Wasted opportunities, again and again. The Sox had plenty of chances against the Angels, but as has been the case quite frequently in the early going (particularly on the road), the team could not capitalize when they put runners on base and/or in scoring position. The Sox were 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position and left 13 runners on base through the first 10 innings.
–The most notable failure with runners on base came in the top of the eighth inning, when the Sox loaded the bases with one out against Angels reliever Fernando Rodney but could not score. Most notable was the strikeout by J.D. Drew with one out, at a time when several forms of contact would have yielded a run.
Drew has always struggled with the bases loaded in his career. In his career, he is now hitting .229/.318/.441/.759 with the bases loaded. Across the board, those are his worst numbers in any situation.
—Kevin Youkilis left after the top of the second inning, not long after he slammed a foul ball off his lower left shin in a 10-pitch first-inning at-bat. With Marco Scutaro replacing Youkilis, the Angels could approach third-hole hitter Adrian Gonzalez with extreme caution, intentionally walking him once and otherwise refusing to challenge him. Scutaro ended up going 0-for-4 while stranding five.
—Jason Varitek continued to look overmatched at the plate, going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. Though he did walk and get hit by a pitch, Varitek is now 1-for-23 (.043) this year. But, of course, Sox pitchers once again had a tremendous night with the 39-year-old calling signals. The Sox now have a 2.22 ERA when Varitek is behind the plate.
|04.22.11 at 12:14 am ET|
On Thursday afternoon, Red Sox farm director Mike Hazen took stock of the outrageously successful start to the season by Yamaico Navarro. Those familiar with Navarro only from his September big league cameo probably had few positive impressions of the 23-year-old — who hit .143 with a .317 OPS, two walks and 17 strikeouts in 46 plate appearances while in Boston last year.
But that brief performance, Hazen and other members of the Sox organization insist, was wildly misleading. Navarro, the Sox feel, has developed into a versatile, talented player who is capable of being a useful member of a big league club right now.
Navarro is off to a terrific start with the PawSox this year, hitting .315 with a .422 OBP, .444 slugging mark, .866 OPS, 10 walks and 10 strikeouts in 14 games. That follows a 2010 late-season performance in Triple-A in which Navarro, after getting bumped up from Double-A Portland, hit .283/.339/.528/.867. He also was a standout in roughly two weeks of play in the Dominican in the winter, once again striking out and walking in virtually equal measure while showing impressive pop.
In the lower minors, Navarro had a reputation as a free-swinger who didn’t have much of a plan at the plate. But Hazen insists that those who still characterize him along those lines are missing the boat.
“He’s been doing this for a year now. Look at his numbers last year. He had 47 walks last year and  strikeouts [in the minors in 2010]. As far as this year goes, it’s early, but this guy’s been doing this for a year now,” said Hazen. “For me, the real sample of this guy’s ability was what he did in Pawtucket last year when he went up for those three weeks: .285 with seven extra-base hits and even strikeouts to walks. Read the rest of this entry »
|04.21.11 at 10:02 pm ET|
The Red Sox, coming off a 5-3 win over the Athletics on Wednesday, will now go after road win No. 2 of the season. For live in-game updates, click below.
|04.21.11 at 11:27 am ET|
Here we go with Week 4 of the 2011 WEEI.com Major League Baseball Power Rankings. Every Thursday throughout the season we will be bringing you an updated version of the list, which will be determined by record, ranking within each team’s division and which team would have the best chance at winning if participating in a best-of-seven series.
Feel free to pick apart the admittedly imperfect rankings by emailing email@example.com or sending a message via Twitter to twitter.com/kirkmin. Have at it.
(Note: Team record and last week’s ranking are in parentheses and all stats are through 4/20.)
1. Rockies (13-5, 5). We can now safely call Troy Tulowitzki an actual threat to Albert Pujols for the title of Best Player in Baseball, right? Without question — at age 26, with two straight top-five MVP finishes and a monster start to the 2011 season (seven homers, 1.183 OPS through 17 games) — he has to be included in the conversation, and if I’m starting a franchise tomorrow and could take any player in baseball he might be my first choice.
3. Phillies (11-6, 2). I knew there was a reason to toss furniture: Jose Contreras — filling in for an injured Brad Lidge — hasn’t allowed a run in his first seven appearances.
4. Yankees (10-6, 4). C.C. Sabathia has an ERA of 2.52 in his four starts. The ERA of the starting pitchers in the other 11 games is 6.67. Sabathia has a record of 0-1, the other starters a combined 5-3 mark.
5. Giants (10-8, 9). Things that interest me and only me, No. 688,224: Tim Lincecum has 939 strikeouts in 838 career innings pitched, or 246 more K’s than Bob Stanley in his 1707 career innings. In case you were wondering, thing that interested me and only me No. 688,223 was that the father in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off played the father in the original pilot of Beverly Hills 90210.
6. Indians (13-5, 13). This has been the best team in baseball this season. Biggest run differential (plus-33), tied for best record, only team in top three in both OBP and ERA. Who knows if this team is going to stick around — and that’s the reason they are ranked only sixth — but no team has been better in 2011.
|04.21.11 at 9:54 am ET|
The Red Sox continue their West Coast swing Thursday night against the Angels. After picking up their first road win of the season Wednesday against the Athletics, the Sox will look to make it two straight when they face rookie Tyler Chatwood.
Chatwood, who has never faced Boston or any of its hitters, is 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA in two career starts. The 21-year-old right-hander gave up four runs over five innings in a loss to the Indians in his big league debut on April 11. He followed that up with a stellar seven-inning, one-run effort Saturday in a win over the White Sox. The victory made Chatwood the youngest Angel to win a game since Francisco Rodriguez in April 2003.
Opposing Chatwood will be Josh Beckett, who has been nothing short of spectacular recently. After losing to the Indians in his first start of the season, Beckett has won his last two outings with a pair of dominant performances against the Yankees and Blue Jays. In 15 innings over that span, he has given up just one run on five hits and three walks while striking out 19.
Beckett hasn’t been quite as dominant against the Angels in his career, as he is 3-4 with a 4.52 ERA in 10 starts against them. Vernon Wells has had more success against Beckett than any other Angel. He is hitting .316 with five home runs and eight RBIs in 38 career at-bats against the right-hander.
Another interesting matchup will be Beckett vs. Bobby Abreu. An incredible 45 of their 98 meetings have resulted in the ball not even being put in play. Beckett has struck Abreu out a staggering 25 times, but he has also walked him 20 times. Overall, Abreu is hitting just .192 against Beckett, but he does have two home runs and seven RBIs and the 20 walks boost his on-base percentage to a respectable .357. Read the rest of this entry »
|04.20.11 at 6:47 pm ET|
After much searching, the Red Sox discovered the magic formula for winning baseball. Though he gave up a home run on the first pitch he threw, Clay Buchholz settled down and did not permit another A’s run over the rest of his outing. While strike zone difficulties knocked him out of the game in the sixth inning, Buchholz nonetheless became the fifth straight Sox pitcher to throw five-plus innings while allowing one or no runs, as the Sox beat the A’s, 5-3.
The run of Sox starting pitching is historic. The last time that the Sox went five straight starts in a single season with one or fewer runs allowed in five or more innings was 1947. Unsurprisingly, the Sox have enjoyed their best stretch of the year in the process, winning four of the five contests.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
—Jed Lowrie apparently brought the cape with him to the West Coast. One day after the shortstop went 0-for-4 to see his seven-game hitting streak end, he started a new one in impressive fashion, going 2-for-4 with a two-run homer. In fact, his day could have been even more impressive, but in his first at-bat of the game, Lowrie was robbed of an extra-base hit when A’s right fielder David DeJesus made a leaping catch in the right field corner. (DeJesus later continued his anti-Lowrie campaign, making a tremendous diving catch in foul territory down the right field line against the infielder.) Even though he sat for much of the first two weeks of the season, Lowrie — who started at third base for the Sox, with Kevin Youkilis serving as DH and David Ortiz out of the lineup — is now second on the Sox with three homers and leads the team with 11 RBI.
–Buchholz was effective if not overpowering. The right-hander gave up a homer to Coco Crisp on his first pitch of the game (the first time that Crisp has ever homered on a game’s first pitch), but then prevented the A’s from further damage. The A’s had their opportunities, but Buchholz held them hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Buchholz did, however, struggle with his command (though it’s worth noting that he appeared to take issue with the strike zone of home plate ump Mike DeMuro). One outing removed from walking a career-high five, he issued four free passes, resulting in his pitch count getting run up to 102 in his 5 1/3 innings. That, in turn, left him without a quality start through his first four turns on the mound.
—Daniel Bard reinforced his place as the reliever entrusted with getting the Sox’ most important outs. Manager Terry Francona went to him with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, with the Sox in possession of an increasingly shaky 4-1 lead. Bard blew away Pennington with three straight 96 mph four-seam fastballs, and then, after Crisp hit a ball that sliced foul by inches down the left field line, Bard retired the Oakland center fielder on a pop up. He pitched another scoreless inning as well.
Bard, who has now stranded all five inherited runners he’s received this year, entered a game as early as the sixth inning for the first time since last April 23. That he can impact a game in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings adds to the case that he is the most valuable reliever in the Sox bullpen.
—Marco Scutaro, who had been on the bench for the prior four games, swung well in his return to the lineup. He went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles, and was stopped from collecting a third hit only by a terrific diving stop by shortstop Cliff Pennington.
—Kevin Youkilis is driving the ball with consistency, having collected five extra-base hits (three homers, two doubles) and driving in six in his last half-dozen games. He gave the Sox a 2-1 lead with a solo shot in the top of the fourth. Youkilis also has seven runs in his last six games.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–Just hours after Peter Gammons suggested that “one of the things that’s killed [the Red Sox] is that Jacoby Ellsbury has forgotten what his job is in baseball, which is to get on base and run,” the center fielder (batting ninth once again) matched a career high by striking out three times, all looking. Ellsbury now has 14 strikeouts in 54 at-bats this year, and after an 0-for-4 day, is hitting .182.
There was an upside to Ellsbury’s struggles, however. J.D. Drew impacted the game from the leadoff spot, hitting a solo homer (his first of the year).
–Sox pitchers continued to perform in spectacular fashion with Jason Varitek behind the plate, as the team now has a 2.33 ERA with the catcher behind the plate. However, Varitek’s offense has remained virtually non-existent thus far. After an 0-for-4 day, he is now hitting .050 (1-for-20).
—Bobby Jenks had his second terrible outing in his last three appearances. Last Friday, he set one career high by allowing four earned runs and matched another by permitting four hits. Entrusted with a 5-1 lead in the eighth, Jenks recorded just two outs and allowed another run while allowing three singles and walking a batter. That, in turn, forced the Sox to bring Jonathan Papelbon into the game in the eighth inning.
|04.20.11 at 4:42 pm ET|
MLB Network and NESN analyst Peter Gammons joined the Mut & Merloni Show on Wednesday to discuss the state of affairs with the Red Sox. He suggested that the issues with Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate may require some kind of change in the coming weeks, discussed Jed Lowrie‘s potential as an everyday shortstop and gave his view of where the Sox might find left-handed help for their bullpen.
He also discussed the Sox’ leadoff woes, which became pronounced while Carl Crawford was occupying that spot for eight games. Gammons suggested that the Sox never envisioned having Crawford hit leadoff, and that the situation was forced by the fact that Jacoby Ellsbury was not taking the approach needed to occupy the top spot in the order.
“I don’t think there was ever an intention to hit [Crawford] leadoff. Never did. I thought it was third or fifth,” said Gammons. “I think one of the things that’s killed them is that Jacoby Ellsbury has forgotten what his job is in baseball, which is to get on base and run. His four home runs, to me, are one of the worst things that’s happened to this team early in the season, because I think it’s encouraged him to get wider and wider with his swing.
“They need him hitting leadoff. They need him to get on base 37 percent of the time or 38 percent of the time. I think he’s kind of gotten away from that. I appreciate he didn’t play for a year, and I understand how difficult it is to come back, but I think that’s sort of been overlooked. The guy who’s supposed to hit leadoff isn’t getting on base.”
Ellsbury entered Wednesday’s game hitting .196 with a .281 OBP, .451 slugging mark and .732 OPS, along with a team-leading four homers. He has walked five times and struck out on 11 occasions in 57 plate appearances this year.
Gammons also suggested that the defensive struggles of Jarrod Saltalamacchia could soon reach critical mass. Given the questions about how often the 39-year-old Jason Varitek can catch while remaining healthy and productive, the Sox may be in a situation where they are left with few desirable alternatives if Saltalamacchia doesn’t improve behind the dish.
“The Saltalamacchia question is something that’s going to continue to be raised here. I know that [Sox manager Terry Francona] is trying to give him a breather, get him established again, but it’s a problem,” said Gammons. “You look around, though ‘ where do they go to get someone else? Their doctors never would have passed Russell Martin (who signed with the Yankees as a free agent) last winter. They red-flagged him as soon as he became a free agent, as much as some of the people in their front office liked him.
“So the question is going to be, if they really feel that this is an issue, and not hitting, but the defensive part, the throwing, do you just go immediately to (Double-A catcher) [Tim] Federowicz, who’s the best catch-and-throw guy in the organization, and hope that he pulls a [Doug] Mirabelli, and just hits fastballs in the middle half of the plate into the screen once in a while? This is an issue that in the next two weeks is going to be addressed, and I don’t know which direction it’s going.”
Gammons expressed dismay that Saltalamacchia’s struggles have quickly become an issue for the Sox.
“He’s such a good guy. He cares so much. He tries so hard,” said Gammons. “[But] you just can’t have this on a championship team, especially when a big part of that championship team is built around power pitchers who are in a couple of cases struggling for their identity. I would be shocked now if Varitek doesn’t catch [Josh] Beckett all the time now. Clearly, they’ve made the decision that he’s going to catch [Daisuke] Matsuzaka, whose earned run average is massively different with Varitek catching. But I don’t think they can afford to let Jason go out and try to catch 120, 130 games.”
Yet while Saltalamacchia’s defense (and, for that matter, offense) have both been concerns, and the Sox don’t have a catcher who is clearly ready to assume an everyday major league role in their system, Gammons noted that there aren’t viable alternatives on the trade market. Read the rest of this entry »
|04.20.11 at 3:35 pm ET|
It’s afternoon baseball for the Red Sox today, and WEEI.com’s cast of characters (and friends) will be giving updates from the contest between the A’s and Red Sox. Click below for updates and on-the-spot analysis as the game unfolds and as the Sox look to salvage a split of the two-game series in Oakland.
|04.20.11 at 11:00 am ET|
After dropping their first game of the Series to Oakland Tuesday night, the Red Sox fell to 0-7 on the road this season, making them the only winless team on the road in the majors. They’ll look to rebound quickly with a mid-week afternoon game that pits Clay Buchholz against Oakland’s Gio Gonzalez.
After a bad start agains the Yankees in which Buchholz gave up four earned runs and only lasted 3.2 innings, his last start was certainly an improvement. He lasted five innings in his third start, allowing only three runs against the Blue Jays.
This Oakland lineup has had limited at-bats against Buchholz, but most hold above .300 batting averages against him. The most impressive of which is former Yankee Hideki Matsui, who is hitting .429 off Buchholz with a double and three walks.
Gonzalez has done very well for the A’s thus far this season with a 2-0 record and a 0.47 ERA. He has allowed only one run all season, and in his last outing pitched an impressive six innings of work against the Tigers on Thursday, striking out six and not allowing a run.
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